Frontera! A Revolutionary Short Film

We all took Texas History in the 7th grade, but aside from the battle of the Alamo, the flags over Texas and such stories, how much more do you remember? The animated short film Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Río Grande is the history lesson we never had in school. The film tells stories long-submerged in the great river that carves part of the Texas-Mexico border through different animation styles from comics to watercolor.

“In the borderlands, a great river runs. The Spanish, call it El Río Grande. At the tail of the river in the clouds by the mountains, where the sky touches the earth lives a horned snake.” When the river snake brings rain and crops, the film begins, times are good. But sometimes the snake goes away, rains stops and blood is shed. This is a story of one of those times.

Now mostly seen as the muddy, brown body of water at the center of an immigration struggle, it was once a mighty river, and the source of food and life for a region at the crossroads of civilizations. To the Spanish, it was a gold mine. To the indigenous, it was sacred. But to both, and later to many others, it would be a battleground over power, the right to exist, and riches.

“The first American Revolution occurred along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico when the Pueblo Indians broke from the Spanish Empire. The 1680 Pueblo Revolt has shaped the deeply contested territories of the US-Mexico borderlands even today,” reads the official PBS description.

It’s story telling methods are unconventional – this is no Ken Burns saga. Most importantly, the tales are told by Chicano and native narrators, the descendants of those in the crosshairs of those ancient clashes and, as one indigenous narrator says, keepers of their ancient spirits.

At only 20 minutes, the film is just a chapter in a history book, but one you shouldn’t skip. Watch it in its entirety here.

Photo courtesy of PBS.

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